Causes of Dry Eyes

If your eyes often burn, itch or ache, you may be suffering from dry eye syndrome. These symptoms are often accompanied by blurry vision and heavy, tired eyes.

Sometimes simply called dry eye, this condition doesn’t go away and usually gets worse as you age. Luckily, however, there are ways to treat it so it doesn’t cause any major issues.


What Causes Dry Eye Syndrome?

The exact definition of dry eye syndrome is a loss in the equilibrium of the tears. There are many causes of dry eye, but most people who have the condition fall into one of these two categories:

  • Tear deficient dry eye: your eyes may not be producing enough tears to properly lubricate your eyes.
  • Evaporative dry eye: there are three main components of tears: water, mucous and lipid (oil). Tears will evaporate too quickly if there is not enough oil in the tear film.


Who’s at Risk?

Dry eye is very common. The risk of it increases as you age, and it affects 50 per cent more women than men. People, who wear contact lenses, use computers for work or who smoke are also at greater risk.

In general, the risk of dry eye increases with:

  • Aging
  • Female
  • Medications
  • Health conditions like Sjogren’s Syndrome , rheumatoid arthritis, Graves’ disease or hyperthyroidism, etc.
  • Eye conditions that cause damage to the nerves in the cornea
  • LASIK surgery (usually temporary dry eye symptoms)
  • Damage to glands which are responsible for tear production


What Should You Do If You Think You Have Dry Eyes?

The first thing you should always do is have your eyes looked at by a professional. Visit your eye doctor to make sure the symptoms you are noticing are actually due to dry eyes, and not something else! There are many symptoms of dry eyes that actually overlap with other serious eye health problems.

Here are some general tips for dry eyes:

  • Remember to blink when you’re using any digital screen
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule — for every 20 minutes you’re using a computer,
  • rest your eyes by focusing on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds
  • Be sure to remove all your makeup before going to bed
  • Keep your eyelids clean
  • Use artificial tears—eye drops that mimic natural tears to hydrate your eyes. Avoid drops that remove “redness” from your eyes!
  • Quit smoking
  • Ask your optometrist about a different type of contact lens that might be better for dryness
  • Use a hot compress on your eyes
  • Review your medications with your family doctor


Remember: if your symptoms persist or worsen, it’s time to visit your optometrist. They can prescribe medications, stronger eye drops like ointments or gels as well as address underlying issues that may be causing your dry eye.

If your dry eyes are bothering you, make sure to mention it to your eye doctor at your next exam. At Family Vision Clinic, we have five locations that provide care for people all over Halifax. Contact us today to make an appointment.

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